As my established readers might know, my debut novel Transference was a finalist for the 2017 BookLife Prize, BookLife being the indie arm of Publisher’s Weekly. While I did not wind up winning, I had a great experience and was happy to talk when BookLife reached back out to me for an update ahead of their 2018 BookLife Prize finalists announcement. Check it out on BookLife, or read an excerpt here:
What has happened as a result of you being a finalist in the 2017 BookLife Prize?
For me, the most valuable result of my finalist status was the wonderful blurb by my category judge, Tim Pratt. I am always chuffed when someone connects with my work, but with his notoriety in the sci-fi community, Pratt’s kind words about the book have opened doors. I use the blurb on my cover, which makes a huge difference in terms of readers’ reaction to Transference, lending a credibility that makes them more likely to give the novel a chance. That initial impulse to open the book is vital, especially when you’re self-published. I know that the story will hook them from there, but I never get a chance to hook the readers who won’t give my book a shot…
What’s one tip that you have for other indie authors?
The most important but difficult piece of advice I have for other indie authors is to not get sucked into the marketing machine. Granted, we all need to pay our rent and put food on the table. I wish our culture had better ways to support artists and entrepreneurs—and we writers are both these days—reach for their dreams. Since that utopian vision is not yet a reality, writers must focus a percentage of their work on making money with their books, often at the expense of the quality of the writing itself. We can’t forget that we are storytellers. We are creators of both fictional worlds and our shared culture here in the real world, for what is culture if not a story we tell each other?
Finding the right balance between the art and the business of writing is tricky and, admittedly, not something I’ve yet mastered, but I believe striving toward that ideal is still important. Don’t push your stories to market before they’re ready. Don’t change the bones of your vision to suit current market trends. Don’t get caught in the keep-up games of author rankings and earnings. Instead, tell the stories only you can, as artfully as you can, no matter how long that takes or what it looks like. Polish your story until it shines. Some marketing techniques work better than others, but all of them work better when the book is good.
Again, head over and give the whole article a read, then subscribe to the BookLife newsletter to be informed of the 2018 winners. I have a friend in the running and I’m super excited for her. Go, Mad Hatter’s Son by Helen Starbuck!